/ 2018

Ear-drilling Fun #7

para2Kia ora, comrades. Welcome to Ear-drilling Fun #7, which will probably be the last column for 2018. Never fear, though – I’ll still be posting plenty of rowdy music in the coming weeks. There’ll be new releases from a few New Zealand and international bands I’ve been hanging out to hear all year. Plus a heap of end-of-year treats for you to devour very soon. In the meantime, dig into the feast of horrible noise below. As always, thanks for stopping by, and I hope you find a tasty morsel or two to enjoy. Ka kite anō.

偏執症者 (Paranoid): Heavy Mental Fuck​-​Up!
I’ve been a fan of filthy Swedish hardcore crew 偏執症者 (aka Paranoid) since day one. The band mix “Disclose-inspired” noise punk with “Venom-styled” black metal, and the bloody-raw result is then battered to death by d-beat madness. Paranoid’s latest album, Heavy Mental Fuck​-​Up!, is their most overtly metal release yet. The album features more of an old-school metal feel than Paranoid’s Satyagraha debut, and Heavy Mental Fuck​-​Up! is crisper and even a touch cleaner around the edges too.

Don’t panic though – Heavy Mental Fuck​-​Up! is still punk as fuck with its fiery tone and even more scorching temper. In fact, Paranoid have pretty much perfected the formula for blending their underground punk and metal influences right here.

Cruor Vexillum: S/T
Cruor Vexillum's first self-titled release features a number of Antipodean musicians who play in other renowned underground metal bands. I'm not being deliberately cvlt or painfully dickish by not naming those bands or musicians. It's simply that some black metal tramples all over hype and trivia in the search for something more eternal. Who's who doesn't really matter in that regard.

Truthfully, a sense of awe and mystery about Cruor Vexillum's debut is fitting given its sound and aesthetic. Cruor Vexillum's often majestic music pays tribute to the influence of Hellenic black metal, and there's an apt sense of mythos and a dark gothic aura that suggests a reverence for poetic narratives too. That's all exemplified by music that embraces bombastic trad-metal as well as heroic black metal. But Cruor Vexillum also weave filthier and doomier elements into the depths of their sound.

Thundering and melodic metal enter into heated battle with blast-beaten chaos on Cruor Vexillum's songs, and sweeping passages of music are assailed by salvos of pitch-black riffs throughout. Produced, mixed and mastered by Vassafor founder (and studio sorcerer) VK, Cruor Vexillum's first release will make your blood run ice-cold with its fathomless vocals and sinister sound honed to the bitterest edge. Cruor Vexillum find the perfect equilibrium between wholly corruptive and utterly divine on their debut. Long may their epic tale continue.

Warthog: S/T
Ka-boom. The latest self-titled EP from Warthog is yet another instant classic. This time, the NYC punk band's super-tight (and super-pummelling) hardcore is taken out for an even longer run around the block. Warthog manage to stretch a couple of the songs off their new EP past the three-minute mark. And the band make use of those visceral extra seconds by bombarding us with even beefier riffs and pounding percussion, all backed by hefty production.

I'll go out on a limb and say there's also more thrashing crossover noise on Warthog's fourth EP. The unrelenting release is a flawless example of just how furious, potent and downright hazardous-sounding hardcore can get. Definitely Warthog's most brutal release and a genuine tour de force… you getting the point yet?

Deviated Instinct: Husk
I’ve only heard two tracks from Deviated Instinct’s upcoming 12”, Husk. But that's more than enough noise to note the legendary UK crusties are exploring a similarly mammoth and metallic vein as they did on their last EP, 2012’s Liberty Crawls to the Sanctuary of Slaves. I’ve got zero complaints about that creative decision. Husk tracks “Brave New Herd” and “We Harvest Just Shadows” are both strapping crust stompers packed with gristle and grit, and the low-end rumble and grumble of death metal makes an appearance here too.

Atrament: Scum Sect
Bay Area crust band Atrament blend the volatile temper of anarchic punks like Doom and Discharge with the sonic snarl and spite of groups like Craft or Darkthrone. Plus, Atrament also throw in a heap of death metal’s thundering tenor. Atrament’s sophomore album, Scum Sect, is another ultra-grim triumph where misanthropy, nihilism and full-bore barbarity reign supreme. Some punk bands sing of hope and change, but Atrament reflect a far uglier truth: namely, we’re beyond fucked already, so sit back and let’s watch it all burn. No question, Scum Sect is one of this year’s best and bleakest punk albums.

Zhukov: S/T
Christchurch band Zhukov features members who also play in NZ punk groups Nervous Jerk, Arm and Hammer, and Master Blaster. Zhukov's self-titled debut features short, sharp and explosive songs that chug and skitter (and skitter and chug) with plenty of hardcore crunch. Recorded at The Dogshit Factory, Zhukov's debut is coarse around the edges, which is no bad thing, and it features plenty of catchy hooks scattered amongst the wreckage of late-stage capitalism.

Archgoat: The Luciferian Crown
The latest album from blasphemous Finns Archgoat is one of my favourite metal releases this year. Unapologetically raw, primitive, and Satanic AF, The Luciferian Crown forgoes slick trappings or subtle hooks as Archgoat double down on more-evil-than-evil nightmares featuring unrelenting guttural noise. First wave-fuelled black metal feasts on grinding death metal throughout, and the darkest imaginable traces of diabolic thrash are also thrown into the cauldron. The Luciferian Crown exhibits horrifying levels of degeneracy – both musical and spiritual. Utterly, perfectly, profane.

Instinct of Survival: North of Nowhere…
Instinct of Survival’s North of Nowhere… LP was originally released back in 2009, but I recently noticed the long-running German crust punk/gutter goth band had uploaded the LP onto their Bandcamp page. I thought, seeing as I’m a very nice boy who wants to share the very nastiest noise around, that I’d let you know about that – just in case you’ve not sampled Instinct of Survival’s rank 'n' rotten music before now. The band’s sound has changed a lot over the years and North of Nowhere… falls into their grinding stenchcore period. Awesome and extremely acrid stuff.

Pozoga: Demo
The debut demo from Dublin hardcore band Pozoga (Polish for ‘conflagration’) is an apt inferno of fierce and frantic punk. Out via stalwart Irish label and distro Distro-y Records, Pozoga’s demo contains six vitriolic songs, including a cover of Basque punk band RIP’s “No Hay Futuro”, and every one of those tracks is a riot of blown-out vocals, distorted guitars, and non-stop d-beat mayhem. FFO of high-intensity and zero-bullshit hardcore.

Apocalypse / Extinction Of Mankind: Split
Also out via Distro-y Records (and others) is the latest release from cult Los Angeles crust legends Apocalypse. The US press of the band's split with UK crusties Extinction of Mankind sold out in the blink of an eye last year, and Apocalypse's return from many years in the wilderness doesn't disappoint.

Apocalypse get back into the groove with a heavier and heftier sound than before, and the three primitive and pounding tracks they deliver here are as fiercely anarchic as ever. Extinction of Mankind's contribution is touted as sounding like it was written during the band's Baptized in Shit era, and "Reap What You Sow" is certainly a brutal and burly humdinger. All up, a trans-Atlantic triumph.

Lái: Demo
Australian label Lost in Fog Records have released a lot of great recordings – like the crashing demos from Battery Humans and Sial, for a start. Lái’s first demo is also extremely promising. But then, Lái also features members who've played in bands like Pisschrist, Extinct Exist, Nuclear Death Terror, and Masses – so that’s not a huge surprise. Lái mix lightning-fast d-beat with breakneck Scandi hardcore, and the band’s vocalist, Aldas, sings in Bahasa Indonesian and English while exploring religion, feminism, and queer rights in South East Asia (and beyond). Politically fierce. Musically ferocious. Blistering tunes for these troubled times.

Geld: Soft Power
Soft Power is the 7" follow-up to Melbourne band Geld's Perfect Texture LP (which I described in a previous Ear-drilling Fun column as a feverishly crazed nightmare). Geld head further down the sanity-mangling road on Soft Power, injecting more free-form psychedelic havoc into their abrasive d-beat and acid-spiked crust. Dark, schizophrenic, and magnificently fucked up, Soft Power is as warped and bewildering as it is utterly neck-wrecking. Ja bless Geld's delirious madness.

Last Agony: Demo 2018
Deathrace: War Is Not the Matter, The Matter Is You
Arseholes: Nevermind The * Here's The....
Headsplitters: Tomorrow

I like to keep an ear out for punk rock that adheres to the ol' 'noise not music' mantra. It's not that I don't appreciate a well-gauged or neatly-constructed song. But, sometimes, I simply prefer sheer unhinged chaos; you know, something that aligns with my general state of being.

The squalling racket Canadian punks Last Agony make on Demo 2018 definitely falls into that category. Last Agony's ferocious songs are split-second, feedbacking blasts of disorder and disarray. And if that's your jam, Singaporean punks Deathrace dig deeper into the Disclose-inspired world of bleeding-raw noise with their blistering War Is Not the Matter, The Matter Is You demo.

The recent Nevermind The Here's The.... cassette from Philadelphia d-beat riff-raff Arseholes is a six-track (and six-minute) blast of extremely obnoxious and tempting noise. Arseholes features members from groups like Pollen, Neverending Mind War, and Mauser, so you can rest assured that the band know how to pump out ultra-primitive and ultra-pummelling punk.

Also sitting high on the raw pandemonium scale is Tomorrow, the debut EP from NYC punk crew Headsplitters. Out via the always nasty Brain Solvent Propaganda, Headsplitters deliver red-lining hardcore and their in-your-face tunes hit with a hefty amount of impact thanks to their thickset (albeit still untamed) production.

Hissing: Permanent Destitution
Permanent Destitution is the latest release from unorthodox Seattle black and death metal band Hissing. The best thing about Hissing is their utter refusal to be hemmed in by subgenre borders, and Permanent Destitution sees the band injecting more bleak and unnerving undercurrents of drone, doom and industrial clatter into their "avant-deathnoise". Permanent Destitution is dark and deranged (and boils with primordial chaos) and the tracks within are twisted and mangled and then turned inside out all over again. It's a dissonant and even overwhelming experience, with jarring guitars and unrelenting percussion pushing Hissing's nihilistic intensity to staggering levels. Tune in for pulverizing heaviness; stick around for the punishing weirdness.

Dirty Wombs: Accursed to Overcome
DIY punks Dirty Wombs reside in Greece but Japanese hardcore has had a profound impact on their sound, attitude, and approach. The band's latest album, Accursed to Overcome, features blistering yet melodic hardcore that matches the galloping tempo, tone and feel of Japan's famed Burning Spirits sound. You get breakneck guitars, scorching riffs and solos, and gruffly barked vocals all running riot on bass-heavy songs. Accursed to Overcome is a total blast, through and through.

Tomb Mold: Manor of Infinite Forms
Outer Heaven: Realms of Eternal Decay

I'm only interested in the rawest, scummiest and/or most putrid strains of death metal. Does make me a fair-weather fan? Or more of a connoisseur? Who knows. But I've got zero interest in tech-metal exhibitionism or milquetoast melodeath. I just want to listen to unrelenting death metal that says "fuck you very much" to showboating and fuses growling or grisly caveman riffs with chest-crushing heaviness.

Toronto band Tomb Mold make music like that. The group's visceral second full-length, Manor of Infinite Forms, is devoid of filler and fripperies and it concentrates on delivering a churning/chugging juggernaut of violent death metal done just right. It's maximum blasting filthy noise, scattered with great big dirty hooks, and will likely snag your rotten little OSDM-lovin' heart. (FYI: Tomb Mold's Primordial Malignity debut from 2017 is pretty great too.)

Pennsylvanian natives Outer Heaven follow a similarly old-school-inspired path on their formidable full-length debut Realms of Eternal Decay. The album features 10 tracks of cavernous (albeit still catchy-as-hell) death metal with ultra-guttural vocals and a neck-wrecking tempo. Outer Heaven clearly tip their hat to days of yore, but there's more than enough fresh ideas and high-octane energy here to fuel a tank battalion.

Vanity: Evening Reception
Blood Pressure: Surrounded
Stigmatism: S/T EP

According to the fastidious folks @ Discogs, US punk label Beach Impediment Records have released around 43 riotous recordings. I reckon I've listened to most of those, and the overwhelming majority (from groups like Vaaska, Impalers, Warthog, Absolut, Paranoid and more) feature first-rate, rip-roaring punk rock. Beach Impediment recently dropped another bunch of rowdy releases, and they're a goddamn riot too.

The music that NYC band Vanity make today is far removed from the hard-driving Oi-fuelled punk found on their classic debut, Vain in Life. The band's latest (and third) album, Evening Reception, features jangling rock that has more in common with the scuzziest years of the Rolling Stones than it does with the Ramones. However, much as it was on Vain's last LP, Don't Be Shy, the band are so skilled at writing sublimely addictive rock 'n' roll that you don't even miss the jagged hardcore of old. A+ garage punk.

Surrounded is the latest full-length release from ill-tempered Pittsburgh hardcore band Blood Pressure. Surrounded kicks off with a blast of screeching feedback and then Blood Pressure relentlessly tear through ten very harsh and heavyweight tracks. Never ones to take the subtle route when ruthless intensity and a mountain of apoplectic attitude work just fine, Blood Pressure ramp up the brutality on Surrounded. Hammering hardcore made manifest: #oosh.

There's a steel-capped boot on the cover of Stigmatism's self-titled debut, and the contents within are pretty much the equivalent of getting kicked in the teeth by that boot. Stigmatism's first release features old-school NYHC tussling it out with gutter punk and a heap of bovver boy ferocity. Rude. Crude. And raw AF. Proper nasty, innit.

Akitsa: Credo
I'll never understand why anyone would want to listen to polished black metal. Buffing black metal's edges is an affront to the subgenre's abrasive ethos and it neuters… nah, just kidding, I don't care about elitist hand-wringing. Enjoy what you enjoy. The void will embrace us all soon enough. I simply prefer raw black metal that's as jarring as the worlds it explores.

I like black metal with primitive production values that maximise the harshness of every single head-splitting moment. Music like black metal band Akitsa make on their latest misanthropic masterpiece, Credo. Credo is lo-fi and ugly as sin and it's a testament to Akitsa's creative resolve that 20 years into their career the Montreal band remain as sonically astringent and emotionally torturous as ever.

Credo affirms Akitsa's skill at fusing audio savagery with ice-cold and often melancholic melodies. Akitsa build bleak, long-form suites from the very rawest ingredients, and the end result is strident music that's spilling over with tension but is also wholly hypnotic.Credo is full of meditative nuance even if its temper is often incredibly antagonistic. In the end, it's Akitsa’s astute balancing of atmosphere and aggression that seals Credo's brilliance.

Universal Eyes: Four Variations on 'Artificial Society'
Universal Eyes is a collaboration/culmination between interlinked noise collectives Universal Indians and Wolf Eyes. The band's DLP, Four Variations on 'Artificial Society', features plenty of Wolf Eyes’ "homemade post-nuclear terror(s)" and "claustrophobic atmospheres". However, Wolf Eyes' patented trip metal adventuring is merely the initial framework for an hour's worth of improvised stonk that's both an unnerving challenge and a rapturous thrill.

Four Variations on 'Artificial Society' isn't an easy listen, but it's a damn rewarding one. The distorting depths of electronics and intoxicating noise-making that Universal Eyes explore constantly morphs and mutates on super-weird journeys into the hinterlands. Four Variations on 'Artificial Society' doesn't so much free your mind as encourage the very core of your being to enter meltdown mode. Delicious.

Mentira: Toda Tu Vida Es Una Mentira EP
The title of the debut EP from Kansas City punks Mentira translates as "all your life is a lie", and the band's riotous sound backs that philosophic perspective to the hilt. With Spanish lyrics and fierce music that plucks inspiration from both US and Japanese hardcore, Mentira's message feels decidedly urgent and they sound determined to deliver it with abundant zeal. Fans of explosive hardcore sprinkled with melodic hooks will find a lot to like about Toda Tu Vida Es Una Mentira.

Regime: Who's to Blame?
Moscow band Regime has links to more well-known Russian stenchcore/crusties Fatum as well as to the raw hardcore group Reptiloids. Regime's focus is on the d-beat/UK82 end of the punk rock spectrum, and the band's debut, Who's to Blame?, features plenty of unabashed Discharge worship. In fact, if you dig Discharge's classic Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing LP, you'll probably also get a solid buzz off the barking vocals and short/sharp attack of Who's to Blame? Stiff-necked old-school d-beat, through and through.

Siege Column: Inferno Deathpassion
Siege Column's mangling debut, Inferno Deathpassion, exhibits the influence of groups like Blasphemy, Bolt Thrower, and Revenge. That's not much of a surprise given the album is released by Nuclear War Now!, and the label's raw metal rep tells you everything you need to know about Inferno Deathpassion's pulverizing production and Siege Column's zero-compromise approach.

Siege Column deliver an all-out assault of bestial noise that harks back to roots of subterranean death metal on Inferno Deathpassion. The album uses brute-force barrages to deliver ominous communiqués with murderous intent. The festering riffs, pounding drums, and guttural vocals here are all primal in form and primordial in tone. However, while the spectre of death metal's earliest days haunts Inferno Deathpassion, Siege Column don't sound like they’re simply rehashing the past.

Somehow, Siege Column manage to mine fresh terror from death metal's past. New school / old school? Something like that. Only much heavier, and more horrific.

Sex Messiah: Eastern Cult of Sodomy
Death Worship: Extermination Mass

While we're all here, I might as well highlight a couple of other horrible-sounding Nuclear War Now! releases I've been enjoying of late. The label's predilection for releasing challenging metal is well known, and while its roster features plenty of coarse and crude music, that music often amplifies the very nucleus (and core strengths) of black metal or death metal –– or whatever bloodthirsty mish-mash of noise is on offer.

That's more than apparent on the full-length debut from Japanese punk and metal cabal Sex Messiah. The band's Eastern Cult of Sodomy album is filled with incendiary odes that fuse the DNA of South American black/death metal with weirdo Japanese hardcore and the diabolic echo of über-underground thrash and black metal from around the globe. With that mix of influences, it's no surprise that Eastern Cult of Sodomy is a red-raw massacre of frenzied noise. But atmospheric and industrial elements also bridge the album's extremely twisted songs throughout.

Death Worship's Extermination Mass – Demo resides at the apex of subterranean metal – or at the heights of underground noise. In 2016, Death Worship released their Extermination Mass LP, which was written by R. Forster (Conqueror/Blasphemy) and performed with the assistance of J. Read (Conqueror/Revenge) and Black Winds (Blasphemy). Extermination Mass was an unapologetic blast of sadistic metal, but Extermination Mass – Demo, which collects that album's home studio demos, is even more ruthless.

For a start, Extermination Mass – Demo is much rawer and dirtier and more instinctual and visceral. Sans any fancier studio tweaks, Extermination Mass – Demo captures more of the initial dark energy expressed too. Touted as being for "die-hard maniacs into more savage sounds", Extermination Mass – Demo is unquestionably harsh and abrasive (as hell).* In my book, that triples its importance.

Life Sentence: S/T
Life Sentence's self-titled full-length debut first emerged in 1987, and the album's official (remastered) reissue adds two studio outtakes, three four-track demos, and a live track into the mix. Life Sentence are less well-known down my end of the world than they are in the US, but in the band's heyday, they toured with the likes of Dead Kennedys, Circle Jerks, DRI, COC, MDC, Suicidal Tendencies and many more. (And Life Sentence's iconic t-shirt was donned by groups like Metallica, Anthrax, Exodus, and Napalm Death.)

Life Sentence's debut was welcomely received by punk, metal and crossover fans, and the newly remastered version sounds great and is punchier and heavier in the low end. If the era when speed and thrash metal originally met skate punk and hardcore is of interest, you should definitely check out Life Sentence. The band's sound is somewhat analogous to like-minded crossover crews like Crumbsuckers, Cryptic Slaughter, Excel, DRI (etc).